Ian Ritchie Architects Ltd was invited by the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) to undertake a feasibility study into the practicalities of upgrading the existing Theatre.
The Royal Academy of Music is a constituent college of the University of London and is one of the top conservatoires in the world. It was founded in 1822 and is Britain’s oldest degree-granting music school.
The Royal Academy of Music was keen to raise the Theatre’s environmental and aesthetic qualities in order to enhance the rehearsal and recording experience for students and the public’s enjoyment of performances.
Our approach was to look at all the issues which we, as a design team, identified as important. These included improving the acoustic, environmental and aesthetic ambience, potential for physical expansion to offer new educational opportunities, accessibility and improved conditions for staff, students and the public.
We started with the theatre interior itself, and then explored the potential of the existing and of a new structural roof. We even considered a complete rebuild of the theatre – rotating its plan 90 degrees to facilitate public and stage access. However this was not deemed economically viable. We concluded the study which demonstrated that a redesigned theatre for opera and musicals could have a 40% increased capacity, larger orchestra pit, and for the first time a stage wing and fly tower, as well as a new recital hall on the top of the theatre roof.
This scheme was granted planning permission and listed building consent by Westminster City Council in February 2012 – at the first attempt. The application was fully supported by all WCC officers and the Marylebone Society considered the planning dossier the best they had ever examined. Construction began in July 2015.
We were subsequently successful in an OJEU competition to undertake the detailed design through to completion along with the contract administration of the scheme. The scheme is scheduled for completion in 2017, with Osborne as the main contractor.